The lockdown situation and the shielding of the vulnerable in our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that families have been unable to physically see each other; grandparents not able to see grandchildren, and for many, sons and daughters unable to see elderly parents.
This situation has been exasperated with relatives living in care homes all over the country where, as reported in the news, the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19, has been rife. It has been of paramount importance to keep care homes free from the virus wherever possible, and so visiting relatives has not been allowed.
The situation at our own RMBI Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court residential home in Porthcawl, which has fortunately been virus-free, has been the same with families of residents unable to see their loved ones. Families have had to rely on the phone and other video conferencing technologies to keep in touch.
The Chairman of the Association of Friends of Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court (AFAEPWC), W. Bro. Phil Aubrey PAGDC, and the committee decided to try and alleviate the stress and boost the well-being and mental health of relatives and their families. They did this through the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) who commissioned the building of two relatives’ meeting rooms at the home. The RMBI arranged for similar work to be carried out in all eighteen of its care homes. The first of these two meeting rooms in Porthcawl is at the front of the building adjacent to the main entrance, but within the confines of the main building, and the other on the Ireland Wing, which is at the rear of the main building.
The rooms, which have separate entrances for relatives and visitors, are divided by Plexiglas windows and have inbuilt audible communication systems allowing two way voice communication between residents and relatives, in both sides of the rooms. This enables families to physically meet and talk to their relatives at the home, whilst keeping them safe from the virus.
The two rooms, which cost £16,000, were jointly funded equally by both the RMBI and the AFAEPWC; the latter receiving generous donations from the Masonic Provinces of South Wales, West Wales and Monmouthshire. The construction contract was awarded by the RMBI to Mitie Ltd, who took three weeks to complete the project.
The rooms were opened for use by the 76 residents, a number of whom are nursing care and dementia sufferers, on 8th June 2020.
Phil Aubrey, chair of the AFAEPWC said: “COVID-19 has been devastating, not only within the United Kingdom but worldwide and particularly within the care sector. Our home in Porthcawl is one of eighteen administered by the RMBI and the home managers, in our case Mrs Alison Aberdeen, supported by their respective staff have worked long hours, and in many cases have remained on site foregoing being with their families. They have provided care and affection for all the residents and must be listed alongside the heroes in the NHS and supporting agencies within our communities. This project has enabled facial communication of our residents and their families, thus enabling them to be reunited as they were before COVID-19. My thanks along with those of all my Committee Member goes out to all who have assisted in the project.”